245. Memorandum From President Nixon to his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

I think we need a bold move in Cambodia, assuming that I feel the way today (it is five AM, April 22) at our meeting2 as I feel this morning to show that we stand with Lon Nol. I do not believe he is going to survive. There is, however, some chance that he might and in any event we must do something symbolic to help him survive. We have really dropped the ball on this one due to the fact that we were taken in with the line that by helping him we would destroy his “neutrality” and give the North Vietnamese an excuse to come in. Over and over again we fail to learn that the Communists never need an excuse to come in. They didn’t need one in Hungary in 1956 when the same argument was made by the career State people and when Dulles bought it because he was tired and it was during the campaign. They didn’t [Page 846] need one in Czechoslovakia when the same argument was made by the State people, and they didn’t need one in Laos where we lost a precious day by failing to make the strike that might have blunted the whole offensive before it got started, and in Cambodia where we have taken a completely hands-off attitude by protesting to the Senate that we have only a “delegation of seven State Department jerks” in the Embassy and would not provide any aid of any kind because we were fearful that if we did so it would give them a “provocation” to come in. They are romping in there and the only government in Cambodia in the last 25 years that had the guts to take a pro-Western and pro-American stand is ready to fall. I am thinking of someone like Bob Murphy3 who would be sent there on a trip to report back to me and who would go in and reassure Lon Nol. This, of course, would be parallel to your activities which will be undertaken immediately after the NSC meeting, in the event that I decide to go on this course, with some of the lily-livered Ambassadors from our so-called friends in the world. We are going to find out who our friends are now, because if we decide to stand up here some of the rest of them had better come along fast.4

I will talk to you about this after the NSC meeting.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Personal File, Box 2, Memorandum for the President, January– December 1970, April 1970. Confidential. The memorandum is unsigned. The classification was changed by hand to Top Secret. Also printed in Kissinger, White House Years, p. 1484.
  2. The NSC meeting of April 22; see Document 248.
  3. Robert D. Murphy, career Ambassador and former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs during the Eisenhower administration.
  4. Nixon sent Kissinger another memorandum on the morning of April 22 which reads: “In the event we make the decision to go along with the present Cambodian government I want you to call in the major Ambassadors who could be of help to us and lay it on the line with them that we are going to back this government [Lon Nol] and will expect them to go along with us. The Japanese, the French, the British and I am sure two or three others come to mind in this respect. Have a check made as to how many the list should include. I think just getting the word out at the Washington level will seep back pretty fast to the foreign offices and could change the climate substantially.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 341, Subject Files, HAK/President Memos, 1969–1970)